Sustainable Tourism Singapore Series #4

United Nations had declared 2017 as the International Year Of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Here is the fourth and the last post of my 4-post Sustainable Tourism Series on Singapore. You may read the first three posts HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Come walk with me within Singapore’s green lung!

Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City that is truly beautiful
An eye candy called Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore Botanic Gardens – A Forest in the City

There is an unusual linkage between Singapore and Rio. No, I am not talking about Joseph Schooling winning first Olympic Gold for Singapore in Rio. I am referring to these being the only two cities in the world that have a rainforest within the city limits. A 6-hectare (15 acres) Rainforest thrives in Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City with fountains
One of the many fountains in Singapore Botanic Gardens

The erstwhile Agri-horticultural Society established Singapore’s ‘Botanic Gardens’ during the mid-nineteenth century. Covering 72 hectares (183 acres), these gardens abut the shopping hub of Singapore – Orchard Road.

Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City that is now a UNESCO site
Singapore Botanic Gardens proudly displaying its recent inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Recently, in 2015, this became the 3rd Botanical Garden in the world to be accorded a UNESCO World Heritage site status – the other two being in Europe (Kew Botanic Garden, London and the Botanical Garden of Padua, Italy).

Singapore Botanic Gardens - Entrance to a Forest in the City
True to the theme – the Tanglin Gate of Singapore Botanic Gardens

Let’s go in

As I was entering the garden through Nassim Gate, a few signboards caught my attention. One of them was about the history of the garden. Reading the factoid that the garden was established in 1859, I realised that it is more than three times older than Singapore, the nation.

Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City
Yes, there is a dedicated garden for Ginger family

Another signboard was about the dos and don’ts in the garden. Apart from the usual norms like walking a dog on a leash and cleaning up after it, abstaining from using skateboards, bicycles et al, what caught my eye was smoking inside is prohibited, and the fine is a hefty S$2000.

Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City that imposes fines
Smoking in Botanic Gardens could attract a fine of S$2000

My ‘Sustainable Travel’ hat made me look at it in a lighter vein. While you will do good if you don’t smoke as it helps the environment, you will perhaps do better by smoking, getting fined and supporting the local government’s funding needs for the upkeep of the garden.

Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City filled with giant water lilies
Giant Water lilies – native of Mauritius
Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City that decks up for Christmas
Even the Christmas decorations have to jell with the garden’s landscaping

A walk inside the gardens is literally a veritable voyage of discovery. Importantly, its history of 19th-century research and subsequent adoption of rubber plantation techniques across the Malay Peninsula that made it the largest rubber-producing region in the world.

Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City
Walkway leading to the cool-house

The World Within

Traipsing along the verdant winding paths, you would find towering tropical trees rubbing shoulders with replicas of pre-historic giant club mosses, a dedicated ginger garden, a few mini-lakes and a cool house. Incidentally, the cool house simulates high-altitude climates and is home to mountainous plants. Once here, swirling mountain mists would engulf you. But make sure you don’t miss out on the carnivorous plants like the Pitcher Plant and the Venus Flytrap that inhabit this enchanted environ.

Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City that houses pitcher plants too
Pitcher plant
Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City with some vicious plants
The treasures within

A star attraction here is the Orchid Garden, housing the world’s largest collection of Orchids. In this ticketed garden you’ll find a smaller, more exotic VIP Orchid Garden.

But let the name not fool you. Actually, this garden is not for VIPs. In fact, it is the centrepiece of Singapore’s famed orchid diplomacy. The visiting dignitaries of the world lend the flora its name. Alongside Margaret Thatcher, Lady Diana and Emperor Akihito, orchids named after Ricky Martin, Jackie Chan and our very own Shah Rukh Khan cohabit here.

Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City full of Vanda Miss Joakims - Singapore's National Flower
Vanda Miss Joakim – Singapore’s National Flower
Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City replete with orchids
Strange-looking, but beautiful orchid

For a small country with a humungous Carbon footprint, this green lung is a natural saving grace. A visit here is likely to reconnect you with nature and could well start your romance with sustainable travel. Make a visit on a weekend afternoon. And, you may just end up catching a scintillating musical performance on the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage in Symphony Lake!

Singapore Botanic Gardens - A Forest in the City also hosts musical performances
Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage

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